Wed, Jul 30, 2014 - Page 1 News List

China investigating ex-security head on suspicion of graft

Reuters, BEIJING

Then China’s Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang reacts as he attends the Hebei delegation discussion sessions at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing in this October 16, 2007 file photo.

Photo: Reuters

China is investigating former Chinese head of security Zhou Yongkang (周永康), one of Beijing’s most powerful politicians of the past decade, on suspicion of corruption, the government said yesterday, in what could become China’s biggest graft scandal.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is investigating Zhou for suspected “serious disciplinary violations,” the party’s graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said in a brief statement, using the usual euphemism for corruption.

The decision was made in line with the party’s constitution and anti-corruption regulations, the statement added.

Reuters reported in early December last year that Zhou had been placed under virtual house arrest after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) ordered a special task force to look into corruption accusations against him.

Reuters also reported in March that Chinese authorities had seized assets worth at least 90 billion yuan (US$14.56 billion) from family members and associates of Zhou.

More than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, political allies, proteges and staff had been taken into custody or questioned, sources who had been briefed on the investigation said.

Zhou, 71, is the most senior Chinese politician to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the CCP swept to power in 1949.

He was a member of the party’s Politburo Standing Committee — China’s apex of power — and held the immensely powerful post of security tsar until he retired in 2012.

Xi has made fighting deeply engrained graft a central theme of his administration, and has promised to take down “tigers” — or senior officials — as well as those of lower rank who are implicated in corruption.

In ordering the investigation into Zhou, Xi has broken with an unwritten understanding that members of the Politburo Standing Committee would not be investigated after retirement.

The investigation shows he has consolidated power and has the confidence to manage any internal rift that may ensue, experts said.

During his five-year tenure as security chief, Zhou oversaw the police force, civilian intelligence apparatus, paramilitary police, judges and prosecutors. Under his watch, government spending on domestic security exceeded the defense budget.

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